"People ask the difference between a leader and a boss. A leader leads and a boss drives", Theodore Roosevelt
There is an often repeated mantra when it comes to employee retention – “people don’t usually leave companies; they leave bosses”. If you have ever had a difficult relationship with a boss, you know it can completely derail your satisfaction at work. So, how can you tell if you will mesh with a potential boss before you agree to go to work for him or her?
Focus on YOU first
The first order of business is to be sure you are very clear on the types of leaders under whom you have felt the most engaged and connected. You will have trouble determining fit if your criteria are not clear. Take some time to reflect on leaders from your past. What are the characteristics present in the best leaders? What was missing or unsatisfactory in those under whom you struggled? Make a list of top characteristics you are seeking.
Talk to former insiders
Locate people who used to work for the company on LinkedIn and see if you can have some conversations to unearth any information on potential leaders. Use your list of criteria to craft good questions. Former insiders have much less at stake as to whether or not you join the company, so they are likely to be more transparent.
Consider reaching out to alumni
When seeking transparency, the more you have in common with someone, generally, the greater the trust factor. So, look for people with whom you have some commonalities. Alumni are generally willing to help, even if they do not know you directly.
Craft thoughtful interview questions
When you have a chance to ask your interview questions, be strategic. Use your list of criteria to assist you in determining what to ask. If you ask a potential boss about his or her leadership style directly, it is unlikely you are going to get a satisfying response. Most poor bosses would not characterize themselves as micromanagers, critical people or any of the other characteristics that are unappealing. So, if you want to learn is someone is a micromanager, you have to be crafty. Here are some ideas:
What are the characteristics of your most successful direct reports?
If you could have changed one thing about the person who most recently held this role, what would it be?
How do you prefer to communicate with your direct reports?
What are the top three things a person could do to be one of your star performers?
Check them out on LinkedIn
There is a wealth of information on LinkedIn that might help you uncover clues to the personality and/or style of a potential boss. Read the profile carefully. How does he or she describe himself/herself? Can you pick up any pattern or clues? What do the recommendations say? Do you see any patterns?
One very unique way to check out LinkedIn is to look to see if the potential boss has written any recommendations about others. You can find that here:
See what they say about those that they are recommending. It is a clue to what they find important. Does every one of the recommendations contain something about hard work and doing whatever it takes to get the job done (that could possibly mean that work-life balance is a lower priority for this potential boss).
Listen to your gut
Yes, this is really obvious advice, but I cannot tell you how many clients have ignored the warning signs that their gut was screaming at them, to later end up in a bad situation. Notice how you feel in the presence of this person. Tune into your inner wisdom and check in. Be honest with yourself about what you feel.
Agreeing to go to work for someone is a HUGE commitment. You could conceivably spend more waking hours with this person than with members of your own family. Bosses have a tremendous ability to influence our satisfaction, our reputation, our pay and our career advancement. Choosing wisely is an important gift you can give yourself. We should work for people who treasure us – don’t you deserve that?
For more information on determining overall culture fit before you take a job, see this.
If you have any other great ideas on how to learn the true nature of your potential boss, I would love to hear it below!